tv [untitled] July 16, 2011 3:00am-3:30am PDT
in la dominica, one of the best cafes in the world, located on oreilly street, where my grandparents met. ticket to ride, i talk about my family history but after they marry -- i am reading a little from the book -- my grandparents were at the center of many fascinating things. i found myself at el centro, the literary and musical gatherings. their house on calle mercades became a cultural cross roads with the traffic of foreigners created a new inspired geography. they travel everywhere.
my grandmother, merced, nina played the piano and read poems, while edward read the poems besides playing the fiddle and violin, behaved like an avant garde composer, moving around furniture. according to the journalist were a dynamic duo that rescued the famous hotel sevilla from dereliction in 1919. they also constructed the biltmore neighborhood where many irish american families have homes. when i said irish americans, i
go back to the americas, irish-spanish americans and french-irish, et cetera, and my own family live there. other famous irish american personalities at the time were, for example, in the news world the e. f. obrian, the editor of the times of cuba and in the cuban roman catholic church, father moynihan, no relationship to my grandmother, loved for his kindness and great sense of humor. born in the 20's in havana were of irish descent. they were fran emilio.
he was entirely blind by the age of 13 but learned gerschwin's rhapsody in blue by using braille scores. he was also one of the major instrumentalists of the feeling -- many of you recollected remember -- the thrilling sound of the 50's that blended the latin bolero with the latin sound. the second was chico, we like always to put these little names to people. my name is carlotta but my real name was charlotte and they called me carlotica, little
charlotte. he moved to new york city in 1948, where benny goodman hire him and he became very famous in new york at the time and he died in new york in 2001. one of the pieces of my ticket to ride is how many cubans of irish ancestry are there. because this connected to my family, that's why i wanted to read it to you. in the 40's, my father moved to new york in search of his destiny. he learned to make brillantine in red, blue and golden colors to give a beautiful sheen to the hair. in his spare time, when he could break free from his alchemist's captive vit, he would go listen to cuban music at the park plaza hotel in
manhattan. those were happy times and years later became a happy tomic with me, convinced early on that my father inhabited a magic world. a few years ago, while listening to a recording of cuban blues by chico, i remembered in new york in those stories of the 40's that chico and my father met at club cuba in manhattan and again in havana in the mid-50's. the sessions of chico's house in our neighborhood became so famous that even my father, not particularly fond of cuban jazz, couldn't resist dropping in once in a while at the much-talked about terrace.
i listened to the rumba of chico's suite, then i would imagine chico back in new york doing arrangements for count bassie and ringo starr and i see myself turning into a big fan during my teenage years in havana. so that gives you a little idea about all these connections. i was born in havana in the mid-50's and my memory have many sounds. my history of my family has given me a variety of experiences and languages. my memory is like an orgy of music. i learned at an early age to get up on my feet and dance. looking at a photograph of myself, i saw a girl dancing an irish dance. i look at me from a seated audience that avoids the music with polite applause.
my audience is courteous and embodies all the mystery of creation. my audience is my irish catalan and spanish family. the eyes of my family activate the dance but i was disoriented and forget the steps, but i wanted the dance to continue. i grew up in havana surplded by murphies, jeovese, all speaking spanish. this was in the late 50's. my grandfather and my father, like many other irish who went to cuba during the past three centuries, became integrated into the cuban society and many used spanish as their mother tongue. as a child, i was never able to pronounce certain words. i spent many solitary hours searching for words and phrases in dictionaries.
my spanish was not cuban enough. my english was not irish enough. my catalan, only a few words. spanish was and is a privileged territory where i feel alive and well. my father grew up in new york and havana and married a cuban woman, my mother. all my family shared a great loving for havana, a city they call home. but contrary to my family, i grew up dreaming of traveling and wanted to leave havana for dublin, where some of the most famous writers i keep admiring were born, and also dreaming of paris where my grandparents, my grandfather, spend many important years of his life. also i want to move to my place, i don't know what was the name of that place. every time people call me la
englicita, the little english woman because in cuba, in the caribbean, they didn't make any difference. all the irish were english. and all the people from asia were chinese. all the jews were called polacos, polish. that is interesting because the irish were part of the spanish community in cuba, but usually they didn't make the difference. so they call me and they call my father el inglis, the english guy. so when they call me that and when my name suffered many different spellings. later on in life, in the 70's, i had many identification cards with names like coffee that i didn't drink at the time, so i began drinking coffee later on, names like caufildo and
garfield, my favorite one, that made me wonder if the bureaucrats at the id office knew that i really love cats. without my garfield id, i left havana in 1981 and went to zurich, switzerland, thanks to james joyce. my dancing there became walking through the silence of the city. instead of people looking at me like my family did when i was a child, people began to ask me, where are you from? i felt disoriented, exiled. the changing perception of nature, religious views, philosophical and political opinions, botanical knowledge and idiomatic sounds, everything new.
i asked myself many times for a specific reason why my irish family went to cuba and began searching for missing pieces of my irish history in irish, cuban, and catalan archives to discover before me that i had a fascinating history of displacement and transformations in various geographic setings. my book, ticket it ride, is a personal journey towards the past and the present. there is no one but many places i belong to: havana, dublin, mahon, barcelona, and since the lay 80's, the bay area. so thank you very much. . >> i'm going to do this in about 5 parts. i hope you will bear with me. first of all, i want to thank
cross roads for inviting me. it's a great pleasure for me to be here and i want to thank, in particular, professor mcfeek and hillary flynn, who made this possible. i'm going to first read from blood feud, sort of give you a small portrait of the protagonist in the novel. kenny had the soft, delicate looks of his mother, a girl who is grandparents came to america from the severity of rural ireland to the harshness of new york city in the 1890's from rough common family lorsed.
he was quietly and lovingly by respectful parents. his mother was francis anne boyle, an irish girl from the bronx, whose family was unwilling or unable to escape from the tranquility of two family yards in the outer boroughs. instead like many families they remained in the south bronx and inwood touting apartment living. most of the offspring of this family, detesting this condition, diligently sought a place in the middle class. some struggled and failed. most attained stability through service to the city. others surpassed their assigned status and rose to positions of influence in many areas of the society, reaching as far as the u.s. senate. still others perished along the
way, succumbing to the ills of all ghettos in spite of their dubious romance provide in abundance. kenny's father was tommy romero, a puerto rican boy born in east harlem, a different kind of ghetto that produced some successes. before he was 10, the romero family took flight to the williams burg section of brooklyn because of the numbered streets such as south 6th and south 7th which carried their direction. in time, the south street became puerto rican, displacing the italians, who moved deeper into brooklyn. the north streets were remained polish extending into green point. his parents purchased a house cheaply and over the years created a home that was a welcome place for their
children and grandchildren. this haven was of such serenity that kenny often felt the same respect and awe that he experienced when entering the fragrant solitude of the catholic church, fleeing went the irish seeking refuge from the advancing harlems, the dark skin of the people making unrecognizable the prejudices they had endured when they arrived in america. the defect of memory driving them forward to separate themselves from the shadows that follow all immigrants. fleeing went the puerto ricans,
escaping the same blackness, but impeled by the fear of blood, both physical and hereditary, fearing with greater horror the prospect of losing themselves in the anonymity that america forces on all of its people, both groups fought the country's wish for that homogenaity. they both retained both their irishness and puerto ricaness. both sides spoke of the ancestral home as if it was the land of milk and honey. this stance was staunchly held to, even though the deprivations endured by many had forced them to leave their
island homes, yet inflexiblely they remained branded in their hearts, each year marching in pageants of ethnic excess. that's the first part. and the second part: the second part has to do with having in front of you a very odd-looking sort of leprechaunish -- latino leprechaun. as a matter of fact, in my novel that margaret spoke about, about jazz, in it, billy farrell, who is one of a very large number of characters, is a jazz pianist and before he begins playing a black leprechaun appears to him, mr. mcginniss so you can assume
it's the ghost of mr. mcginniss. as margaret said, in 1949 we came to the south bronx, which was an irish neighborhood, mostly. i was sort of a spaced-out kid, destined obviously to be a poet. i was this big at 13 and i was a good rollerskater and the kids were amazed and they befriended me. after a while, they recognized that i had some sort of athletic ability and because i was so spaced out, they mistook it for great courage and if they pushed me, i pushed them back. it was just like a game. so they took to me and asked me to join the shamrocks. i even changed my name from ed vega to ed mcveigh. and this is how they passed me
off because most of the teams they played were other irish kids. this was a regular football team so, consequently, they listed me as eddie mcveigh. it was great fun and my friends were jimmy flynn, paddy o'connor. my siblings married the shenny's and i almost married a catherine finerin but it didn't work out. i have a nephew, sean patrick mcflynn. i always question myself because my writing about the irish is really my writing about myself coming to the united states and coming into contact with the united states
so consequently my puerto rican friends, and some of my irish friends, although they were more circumspect, what are you doing writing about the irish? i'm writing about the united states. the irish are more interesting. they had to put up with colonialism, just as puerto rico is a colony of the united states. i also respect the fact that they have a facility with language, which i also enjoy. consequently, i wondered why this attraction to the irish. in 2004, the university of puerto rico asked me to come there and lecture and read. i immediately called my
favorite cousin, and she said, what are you doing here? i told her and i said, please come to the reading, i have a book for you. she came. she said my son is getting married tomorrow at the caribbean hilton, could you please come? and i went. i hadn't seen her in 30 years. we were kids together. and after the wedding, there was a reception and she introduced me to her daughters, very beautiful girls, then i met the last one, very beautiful, green eyes, and she said, i want you it meet my son. all this is in spanish, you know? so i said, sure. so she called these 3 boys over, about my complexion, curly hair, and this is barry, brian, and brady.
you expect jose jimenez, you know. what's your last name? murphy. murphy? si, si, murphy. very close to the way the irish pronounce murphy. i said, that's amazing. did you marry a serviceman from the -- military person who came to puerto rico. no, the family has been here since the 18th century. and i said, really? so we began tracing -- we still haven't found the actual person, but evidently it was an irish conscript in the irish navy that came to puerto rico. puerto rico was owned by britain, as they liked to do with their colonies, and efficient evidently the sailor
came there and said palm trees, warm weather, and look at the girls. and he remained. that's the end of the second part. the third part is in response to the op ed piece that margaret mcpeek wrote in the chronicle and the letters, i don't know if you've read them -- you should pick up -- the letters that a couple of, you know, irish americans wrote in response accusing cousin mcpeek of not having a sense of humor. it has to do with these tee shirts that target has produced for the st. patrick's day parade in which mrs. mcpeek derided the fact that they were making fun of the irish in the united states, you know, things
like i survived the kelly murphy family gathering, things like that. and they wrote letters poking fun at what i thought was a couragous op ed piece. so this is in response to the irish americans who don't feel the pride that they should. and please excuse if i manhandle the irish manner of speaking. this is a joke told to me by one of my friends. he said that an american, an irish american, was golfing with his wife on a weekend. and he hit the ball into the rough. went looking for it. all of a sudden, a leprechaun jumped up. we're back to the leprechaun theme. he said, top of the morning to you, lad. he says, you're a leprechaun. he says, yes, i am, and you have 3 wishes. three wishes? he says, yes.
you have 3 wishes. i want to be a par golfer.. he says, no problem. from now on, par and under. he says, i want a porsche. he says, when you go home tonight, there will be a porsche in your garage. and he says, i want a million dollars. he says, done. when you go to the bank on monday, there will be a million dollars in your account. thank you very much, i have to find my ball. so he goes looking -- hold on a minute, lad. please hold on. i see you are golfing with your wife. do you mind if i go into the shrubbery with her for an hour or so? he says, let me ask her. it's a million dollars. so he goes up and asks the wife and she says, what? you don't mind if i go in the bushes with the leprechaun? he says, no, no, go ahead.
it's a million dollars. she says, i don't care about the car but a million dollars that could help us a lot. so she goes into the bushes with the leprechaun. about an hour later, they are coming out, she's adjusting her skirt, fixing her hair, and the leprechaun says, thank you very much. how old is your husband? she says, he's 44. he's a little too old to be believing in leprechauns, isn't he? so that's for those who don't respect their own heritage. in addition to that idea of the cross roads of identity and the politics of identity, the other thing i had wanted to speak about for a second was the cross roads of community building. my -- i've been fortunate enough with my experiences, which have all been in the san francisco bay area, to have the ability to go and to listen to
a lot of different music and to perform, to go and listen, and i can't say enough what events like this do for young folks for myself who have to negotiate through the pressure of a dual identity. i can remember way back going to the irish arts festival that used to be at ft. mason and in the same day being able to hear kila and angela mcnamera. it was a sonic history lesson in a day. the best thing was, you could talk to any of the people who were there and you could have that history lesson expanded for you. being able to interact with folks like photographer karen rich, who is sitting in the audience right now, being able to interact with kong on his
album, bridge across the blue, these events i really don't think that can be taken lightly. for urban american indians we have powwow which are intertribal events that revolve around a shared repertoire of songs and dances like some of the singing you have heard me do here today. it's a time for people to be able to come together, not for the casinos, not for that part. talk about fighting stereotypes, that's a stereotype for us. yes, we have casinos, but that all of our culture? no. it's not all we are here to be defined by. for most people, especially in urban areas, powwows are places to go to reconnect. powwows are places you go to see people you haven't seen in a long time and to make new friends, new connections, nothing different than what's going on here, nothing difrplt than what was going on at the old festival at ft. mason. with that, i wanted to play
also for you a little bit of cedar flute. if you've heard cedar flute you've heard youngblood and cedar flute has become emblematic of american indian in the singular, american indian culture. i wanted to play it for you to give you an example of what might be considered traditional style because after this i'd lake to bring up two guests and play two arrangements that were created especially for this festival that bring in both the irish american and the urban indian. so this is a cedar flute song for you. (playing flute)